THE GLAMOUR OF GRIME
The BBC's Life of Grime documentary series,
which began by shadowing local authority rat-catchers and
food safety enforcement officers in the UK, has now spawned
spin-off programmes in New York and put the behind-the-scenes,
often prosaic work of environmental health officers firmly
on the TV map.
One of the officers who has appeared regularly
in the long-running show - he is usually seen inspecting
unsavoury food shops in pursuit of 'meat crime' convictions
- is the larger-than-life Yunes Teinaz, principal environmental
health officer (EHO) at the London Borough of Hackney.
Teinaz says he invariably receives a warm welcome from members
of the public who have seen the show and believes the programme
has helped his campaign for clean food premises in the borough.
"I think the series has highlighted
the often hidden work that we do and has shown how interesting
a career in environmental health can be," he says.
"It has demonstrated that we do far
more than rat-catching and rubbish removal and we can help
people in their everyday lives across a wide range of issues.
The programme-makers I met during the course of the filming
have been very fair and professional in their treatment
of our profession and cannot be faulted. The series has
made me even more proud to be an EHO."
A rather different view is expressed by
Tony Lewis, principal education officer at the Chartered
Institute of Environmental Health, which was not approached
for help by the programme's producers.
"Around the time the show was on weekly,
we suffered a significant downturn in terms of the numbers
of students coming forward to do an MSc in environmental
health at one of our accredited universities," says
"While the reasons for the downturn
- from well over 100 applications per university to around
60 - were complex and varied, and affected the entire local
government sector, it is our view that the unnecessary concentration
on rat-catching and even morgues actively deterred many
people from pursuing a career in environmental health."
Lewis says the decline in numbers has now
been reversed, but attributes the turnaround to a redesigned
website and an updated degree curriculum, rather than to
the skills of TV producers. "Many officers on the ground
have praised the series," he says. "But as a 10,500-strong
institute, we do not feel it did us justice."